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Olympic Swimmer, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. Named on 2023’s TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People In The World.

Personal info

Yusra Mardini is a Syrian former competition swimmer and refugee of the Syrian civil war. She was a member of the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team (ROT) that competed under the Olympic flag at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. On 27 April 2017, Mardini was appointed a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. She also competed in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo with the Refugee Olympic Team (EOR). She was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2023, alongside her sister, Sarah.


Mardini was born to a Sunni Muslim family. Growing up in Darayya, a suburb of Damascus, Mardini trained in swimming with the support of the Syrian Olympic Committee. In 2012, she represented Syria in the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships (25 m) 200 metre individual medley, 200 metre freestyle and 400 metre freestyle events. Mardini’s house was destroyed in the Syrian Civil War. Mardini and her sister Sarah decided to flee Syria in August 2015. They reached Lebanon, and then Turkey, where they arranged to be smuggled into Greece by boat with 18 other migrants, though the boat was meant to be used by no more than 6 or 7 people. After the motor stopped working and the dinghy began to take on water in the Aegean Sea, Yusra, Sarah, and two other people who were able to swim jumped into the water and pushed and pulled the boat through the water for over 3 hours until the group reached the island of Lesbos. They then traveled on foot through Europe to Germany, where they settled in Berlin in September 2015. Her parents and younger sister, Shahed, also fled Syria and live in Germany.

Day 1 of the Conference

Saturday 11 November

10:30 - 11:15


Yusra Mardini
Setting the scene